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Jargon Busted: What Is A Teraflop And Why Does It Matter?

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Jargon Busted: What Is A Teraflop And Why Does It Matter?

The PlayStation 5, the Xbox Series X and the Xbox Series S are launching very soon, and with the next generation of gaming comes a bundle of jargon that we've translated for you. Today's lesson: the teraflop.

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Now, the PlayStation 5 uses a custom AMD Zen 2 eight-core central processing unit (or CPU), capable of 10.28 teraflops. The Xbox Series X also boasts a custom AMD Zen 2 eight-core CPU, with one of the cores dedicated to running the operating system, and it's able to achieve 12 teraflops. The most appropriate analogy for the role of the CPU is like the brain in the human body. It's responsible for ordering and executing the instructions that comprise a program. The brain orders and executes the instructions "take slices of bread, put in a toaster, press the toaster button, wait, take toast out, spread butter on the toast" to make breakfast.

Inside the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X, these CPUs are computing sequences that are remarkably complex: they're rendering worlds, player presence, sound, controller inputs, the list goes on. Therefore, a teraflop is actually a measurement of processing power. FLOP stands for "floating point operations per second." Tera- means multiplication by one trillion. Teraflop is how quickly the CPU processes one trillion floating point operations per second.

The PlayStation 5 / Credit: Sony
The PlayStation 5 / Credit: Sony
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Another analogy: it's like making breakfast while also calculating this week's bills, hearing a plane flying overhead, realising that the oven needs a clean, and messaging your mum about a cat you saw yesterday. (Spoiler: you do this every day. It's just exciting that we can make consoles as clever as humans are.)

The analogy only goes so far, as the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are not intended for breakfast time. On this front, teraflops pertain to a CPU's ability to form polygons and manipulate them. Everything that you see in a game is rendered in the form of polygons, from grasses to dragons. Rendering in this manner requires the calculations of countless floating point operations, and so a greater teraflop count means that the system renders more polygons at a significant speed.

Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S / Credit: Microsoft
Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S / Credit: Microsoft
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Does this mean that the Xbox Series X is better than the PlayStation 5, because it has a higher teraflop count? Well... while it is true that the former renders polygons faster, that's not the only marker of a gaming experience. Plus, the teraflop relates to the maximum performance possibilities of the console, and there are other factors that will affect the processing power. Additionally, this figure might not matter to you, because you're very interested in exclusives like Demon's Souls and Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales on Sony's side, or Halo Infinite and Fable on Microsoft's side.

Featured Image Credit: Microsoft, Sony

Topics: Xbox, Next-Gen, News, PlayStation

Imogen Donovan
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